Sunday, September 18, 2011

AM I MY GAY BROTHER'S KEEPER?

CAIN AND ABEL
IL TINTORETTO, 1550-53
"[T]he Church can't be put forward by anybody but God and one is apt to do great damage by trying; consequently Catholics may seem very remiss, almost lethargic, about coming forward with the Faith."
--Flannery O'Connor

We hear a lot from the pulpit about loving our neighbor as ourselves, and loving each other as Christ loved us, but what we don't hear nearly enough about, in my humble opinion, is: What does that look like in action? One line of thought has it that we're called to point out another's sins to him or her. A true friend will tell another when he or she is sinning, these folks maintain. A person of conviction is willing to speak the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. Friends don't let friends have gay sex.

I must confess that something in this stance makes me recoil.  

I’ve said “Oh I’m a Catholic—please don’t speak disrespectfully of the Virgin Mary.” I’ve said, “You might want to stop right there, because I happen to be a devout Catholic myself.” I’ve said when a friend mentions that he’s been watching internet porn: “Oh that’s no good! You don’t want to be spending your time like that!” I’ve said: “Estelle! He’s married. I politely decline invitations to gay weddings (as Simone Weil said, "One cannot imagine St. Francis of Assisi talking about rights). 

But I just can’t quite picture the circumstances under which I’d be moved to inform, say, my gay friends—with whom I’ve shared my joy, pain, stories, tragedies, triumphs, meals, struggles, and soul, and who have shared theirs with me—that I disapprove of their sex lives (about which, by the way, I know (as is only appropriate) nothing).  

No, ponder as I might, I truly can't imagine how and when such an event might come to pass. When my gay friend, a clinical social worker whose clients are people with AIDS, addicts and alcoholics, is calling to wish me a happy birthday, as he has every year since high school? When my gay friend who teaches inner-city third graders, is calling to ask if I’d come speak to his creative writing (yes, third grade) students? When my gay friend who works full-time as a health care advocate for the poor and in his “spare time,” volunteers at  a Skid Row soup kitchen, is serving me a meal of fava beans he grew in his garden, frittata from eggs laid by the chickens he raises, and figs from the tree in his yard, and asking about my mother?

I’m not sure what my point would be. To inform my  friends that homosexual sex is morally wrong? Cause I think it’s a pretty safe bet that, being over the age of five, they’ve heard that before (and if your friends are anything like my friends, have wrestled with it, agonized over it, suffered ongoing loneliness, ostracism, anguish, conflict and doubt over it). To inform them that, as a Catholic, I believe it’s wrong? Again, I think I can rest assured that, somewhere along the line, my friends have gotten wind of both Jesus and the Church’s stance on gay sex (not least of all because many of them were raised Catholic and have since left the Church). That would leave as my motive basically to inform my friends that I'm morally superior to them. Which in my case would require a kind of cognitive and emotional dissonance that even someone so eternally blind to her own shortcomings would find pretty much impossible to compute. 

If I disapproved of them, I wouldn’t have become friends with them in the first place, and I think this brings up a crucial point about the way Christ lived, taught, and drew people to him. Christ’s entire ministry was to proclaim the spirit of the law over the letter of the law; mercy over justice; love over vengeance, punishment, shaming, self-righteousness, and Phariseeism. So if we’re wondering whether we’re being derelict in our duty by failing to go around informing people that they’re sinning, Christ laid that worry to rest. He laid it to rest with, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He laid it to rest with, “Take the beam out of your own eye before you take the mote out of your neighbor's eye.”

Christ never went around telling people they were sinners (though he did FREQUENTLY tell people they were hypocrites). He was alert for an opening. He was ready for the moment when they saw they were sinners and started to cast about for a way to change and a direction to turn in.

photo: the vibe source
Now if you have a beef with a friend, if something’s gone wrong between the two of you, that’s the place, or one place, to be honest. We’re totally called to say "You know what, that hurt," or "Wait a sec, that doesn’t strike me as quite fair," or "I feel like you’re wanting more from me than I’m able to give. Here’s what I can give and happy—thrilled—to give it!"

Another place to be honest is when our friend comes to us and asks for our opinion or feedback or take on a prospective course of action. I happen to have the sacred honor of being a kind of spiritual (spiritual, not religious) advisor to, among others, a couple of non-Catholic gay friends. Here are the kinds of things they come to me with: “I’m going home to visit my gun-toting, gay-bashing family: how can I love them while I’m there? How can I not give in to anger and fear?” Or “I’m starting to sort of throw my weight around at work. How can I be a worker among workers? How can I remind myself I’m basically there to be of service?” Or "My partner's  sick again. I don't mind going to the hospital every night but I'm stressed to the max. How can I be kind to her and kind to myself, too?"... 

Now what is going to be put me in the best position to lay down my life for these friends? Am I going to say “That’s a very good question,” but before I answer, narrow my eyes, lean in, and add, "By the way, gay people shouldn’t be having sex." Am I going to say, “That’s a very good question--but what you really need is to become a Christian.” No, because they are Christians. They're Christians in spirit. Those are exactly the kinds of questions that a follower of Christ would ask and should be asking.

I’ll tell you why my way strikes me as more Gospel-based, and more authentically honest, than informing people they're "sinners." Because it requires me to sacrifice my time, energy, mind and heart. It requires me to give all of myself—not just my knowledge of the Catechism. It requires me to be vulnerable, to be awkward, to risk being wrong, to risk failing, to consent to NOT be very helpful, for my friend to disagree. It invites and is underlain by relationship.

If I were the formation director for a monastery, or an RCIA teacher, or a priest, and my friends came to me, I'd have a different relationship; I'd be acting in a different capacity. If they come to me as it is with a specific question or issue around their sexuality, I'm totally there, helping to lead them toward the God of their understanding. But under the circumstances, as soon as I inform my friends that I disapprove of their putative, not-in-issue sex lives, I’ve set up a barrier. I’ve created anxiety and mistrust—on both our parts. My gay friends (who, by the way,  like all my friends, are abundantly aware that I'm a practicing, fervent Catholic) are no longer going to come to feel safe to come to me with their concerns.

And the tragedy there, let me point out, is not so much that they're going to miss out on me: it’s that I’m going to miss out on them. 

Obviously if our friend takes to drinking Wild Turkey, shooting meth, and going to the baths every night we're going to say, "Whoa, what's going on?" But I'm very troubled by this idea that the mark of a follower of Christ is that his or her friends are lily white. I'm deeply troubled by the notion of only being willing to give, and to receive, from people with a perfect track record--a stance, in fact, that strikes me as the antithesis of Christianity. I don't even know such a person, and the people I've met who THINK they have a perfect traffic record are way, way scarier to me than any "sinner." (I'm such a huge sinner myself I simply can't refrain from putting the word in quotation marks).

We're talking about Christ here. Christ who said "Healthy people don't need a doctor; sick people do." Christ, who said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Christ, who hung out with prostitutes, drunks, tax collectors, and I think it's safe to assume, a whole ton of people who were "sexually disordered." How can we tell people they're sexually disordered and also fail to offer them our passion, our warmth, our friendship?  How can we tell people they're called to life-long celibacy (or to marry a member of the opposite sex to whom they're not especially attracted) and not simultaneously offer them our deepest solidarity and our understanding? How am I going to be better placed to lead my friends to the love of Christ: by informing them they are wrong, or by encouraging them in the myriad ways they are right?

Because as Father Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household  notes: “It is not a question of God’s action depending on something that comes before it, because it clearly does not. What matters is knowing if God’s action requires something in response.

We’re brought to the light first, in other words: the response—of wonder, of gratitude, of wanting to give everything—comes afterward. 

To know Christ: this is what we want for the whole world; this is what we long for on behalf of our friends. But Christ himself—“a God so intensely alive he can afford to be dead,” as Hans Urs von Balthasar observed—typically, strangely, does not demand that people recognize him or worship him or even call him by name before he begins to draw them to himself. What’s required to start walking toward the light is not recognition of Christ qua Christ but purity of heart. What’s required to spiritually progress is a spirit of self-sacrifice, self-examination, service, and willingness--which all my friends have, or hope for, in spades.

I rejoice to walk beside my gay friends on the Way of what I know as Christ and they may not--may not ever. That we walk together--stumble together--anyway I think is absolutely in the spirit of the Gospels and pleasing to and a delight to Christ.

At the final judgment, Christ tells us, we will be favored as sheep rather than goats not by virtue of the distance we maintained from the marginalized, but by how close we allowed ourselves to be invited to them. “For he who is not against us is for us” [Mark 9:40]. What joy in heaven--for our friends, for us--when we find we were with Him all along.

FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSA,
PREACHER TO THE PAPAL HOUSEHOLD


57 comments:

  1. I like this piece - actually I've been trawling your stuff & I'm impressed. Can't believe you deny being able to write fiction - go on - have a go at it. Regarding the Gay Brother's keeper piece. Several weeks ago an In Law (30 something) mother of two flew down & stayed overnight with us to attend an important funeral. I asked after a certain elderly priest & was informed he had recently died. She told me he was immensely popular (& holy which I had never doubted) and because of this had been 'treated' to seven requiem mass memorials - in the various parishes he had served. She managed to attend the last one in Auckland's St Patricks Cathedral & the congregation overflowed outside. Many attendees were transvestites, druggies, alcoholics, prostitutes you name it, all of whom during his priesthood he had ministered to with complete unselfishness. That's how I think (within reason) we should be engaging the world. You covered it well.
    Cheers
    Stephen Sparrow

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  2. What the Church never realized is that Gay is not a decision, it just is. You are born that way. I know many do not think so, and quite frankly, I ask them "Tell me exactly when you made your choice for women?"

    The Church now pays attention to science, perhaps they will start to listen on this issue too. Your most important point is that of service, that is what Christ cares about.

    Read Elizabeth Scalia about Gay the Sacred Other? Wonderful article.

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  3. There's a whole lot of common sense here. Thank you for yet another inspiring and challenging post!

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  4. Jesus never told any ordinary person to be in charge of the moral/ethical decisions of another ordinary person.

    Paul didn't even do that. He charged the Christian community (and by extension its leadersip) with doing this - read 1 Corinthians. But that doesn't mean it's up to Daphne Disciple to constantly be on the watch for her neighbor's sins.

    For your neighbor/brother commits all kinds of sins. There are times when because of your relationship with that person and your knowledge of them you can invite them to a closer look at what they are doing. But for most of us - again we who are just ordinary folk with no authority - we need to just witness in love.

    I have gay neighbors - I mean - literal neighbors. A gay couple next door. I believe every word of the Church's teaching on sexuality. Every single word. But it is not my business to call out these guys when we're chatting about our lawns. One of them is the son of evangelical Christian missionaries for pete's sake. I think he's probably heard it before.

    I've got my own sins to worry about

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  5. Yes, Stephen, exactly: every gay friend I have ever had has known and experienced that the gayness was hard-wired--just as every sober alcoholic I've ever known has known the alcoholism is hard-wired and that we were exhibiting addictive tendencies in various areas way before picking up a drink. The choice comes, if you've been graced enough to have the obsession to drink removed, in not picking up the first drink...Just as the gay person has a choice, not in his or her gayness, but in how to live that out. I hope nothing in my post detracts from or is incongruent with the tremendous affection, admiration, and inspiration I feel from the many gay folks who are, at what I can only assume is significant cost, faithfully living out the Church's teachings in their own lives. And of course I can and do try to faithfully live the Church's teachings out in mine..

    At the same time, the post isn't so much about the Church's stance on gay sex as it is about evangelization. And I think Flannery O'Connor's point that this is essentially God's work and we can do great damage if we take it upon ourselves is very well taken. I think as soon as we get some horrible notion of getting a "convert notch" on our belt we are in real trouble. The question in that case is what are we trying to convert people TO--and if we have ANY notion that the glory is to inure to us or that the job is ours alone we run the terrible peril of trying to convert people not to Christ, but to us.

    Mother Teresa, when holding a glass of water to the lips of a dying untouchable did not, just as the person was about to take a sip, snatch the glass away and ask "Have you been SAVED? Do you accept Christ as the RISEN LORD?" She SHOWED the person the risen Lord by laying down her life, just as Christ did. That is how people are converted. That is how people open their hearts to love, to Christ--by us, essentially, consenting to get out the way, to become invisible so that Christ can reveal HIMSELF. The sign of conversion is not being able to parrot some formulaic words. The sign of conversion is that we become willing, in our bumbling, imperfect ways, to lay down our own lives...

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  6. Hi Heather,
    I really appreciate your words in this post. For me, this is THE divisive issue amongst my friends and the greatest hurdle to their trying to be in relationship with Christ. You treated it with sensitivity, dignity and humility. I'll be taking this post with me!
    Cheers,
    Dana

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  7. I have often wondered what, as a Christian, is my duty as far as preaching to my gay friends about the sinfulness of the lifestyle.

    I had a close, gay friend who, being a fallen-away Catholic, knew my beliefs. For a long time, we didn't talk about his homosexuality as a lifestyle, and I knew nothing of his sex life (as you said, is appropriate). But one day, in the manner of spilling a wary secret, he told me about his boyfriend, who had actually been seeing for some time. All I said was, "Well, I love you very much, but I know you know how I feel about the matter, and that I would feel like I hadn't done my duty as a Catholic by letting you think I approve of that." And he did, and he understood, and that was that. I don't remember us ever talking about it again.

    I have had gay friends since then, but I've never had the relationship with them that I had with him that would have allowed me to be that honest.

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  8. I've thought over this issue so much. I agree with you whole heartedly. Our gay friends, if we are actively practicing our Catholic faith, know where we stand on the issues. It's when we bring Christ love anyway that HE not, US, HE can make a difference. Our words don't matter. Our love does.
    Because when we love, it's Him that is then made present and He'll take over from there in whatever way needs be. WE just need to get the heck out of HIS way. ;-). Mel

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  9. Great piece. I am wondering, however, what you say (or would say) if your gay friends start attacking the "hate" of the Church for gays, women etc.. I have finally seen the limits (and harm) of preaching to others about their sins, but some of my friends haven't seen the limits of preaching to me about the "sins" of my Church.

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  10. Heather:

    Thanks for this post. For the longest time I've thought I was the only one who thought this. And, it's been hard. It's easy to condemn. But, how easy is it to love? And that's what, as a "sinner", I believe God calls me to. Now I know I'm not alone in my understanding of the call to love..

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  11. Heather, this is so beautiful. I totally agree. I do so want to get out of the way and let Christ shine through to everyone I meet. Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

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  12. This is wonderfully and beautifully put.

    Last year, one of the priests at our parish gave a homily about homosexuality. The homily included a tender story about his brother, who is gay, and the homily was memorable because it had absolutely zero chastising. There was no "here is what the Church says about being gay," no "mend your ways, gays!" It was, quite simply, a reflection on what it means to be a welcoming church. He ended the homily by saying to all the gay, lesbian, and transgendered parishioners, "Welcome. We're glad you're here."

    According to the liturgist, he got applause at every Mass. I know of at least one woman who came back to a second Mass to hear it again. Clearly, he said what a lot of us in the Church are feeling. You have, too. Thank you.

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  13. to Anonymous: oh it goes without saying I am constantly hearing--not so much from my friends (though sometimes from my friends, too) as from the culture at large--that the Church is hateful, that the Church is hypocritical, that the Church is sick, that the Church is a sham, that the Church is evil and responsible for all the evil in the world...People who would not be caught dead maligning gays or developmentally disabled or Jews or Buddhists or Moslems or blacks or women feel entirely free to smear Catholicism and Catholics with almost frightening fervor...

    If someone is actually interested in engaging in conversation, that's one thing, but for the most part, I simply respond to such attacks with something like "Oh, my own experience with the Church has been very different" or, like Christ before Pilate (and for the same reason, which was that Pilate was not remotely interested in actually getting to the truth; he wanted to have a snarky little exchange which he "won"), stand silent.

    We're called to lay down our lives for people who, if they had the chance, would kill us--who did kill Christ. We're not going to get thanked for that. We're not going to be recognized for what that costs us. I think this is one of the reasons we tend to polarize into right and left: because we so desperately (and understandably) want to have a sort of team to support us. To say I totally subscribe to the teachings of the Church--and what that means to me is pretty much poverty, nonviolence and hanging out with the leper--there's no "team" for that, and rightfully so. Christ never told us we got to gain a foothold or have a coherent bullet-point program or have a team: in fact his own team, such as it was, deserted him in his hour of need. He left us the Church, without which we could do nothing--but the Church is not a team or a club or a fraternity or a cheerleading squad...

    I understand, in part at least, and to my sorrow, why so many people hate the Church. My "answer," my response, is my life...

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  14. All I can say is "thank you." I discovered your work when I followed a link to your piece about avoiding the Catholic "left" and "right" and I now follow your work with anticipation. Stuff like this is why.

    I have a gay brother and just as I would never condition my response to him on my take, which, by the way, is profoundly ambivalent, on his sexuality, why would I do with a friend? They are my friends. Even if I don't know them that well, they are, I have it on good authority, my brothers and sisters.

    My confessor who is from Poland is bemused by the American emphasis on sexual matters to the virtual exclusion of all other sins. As, quoting a Cardinal he once heard, tells me: "it's the sixth commandment, not the first."

    As I get older and my pride and anger are chipped away, I'm left with the conviction that we hurt and our job is to help bind those wounds. Being a healer -- heaven help me, I sound like Todd Rundgren -- is what I'm called to do.

    BTW, thanks for the Weill quote.

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  15. A really invaluable piece. Thanks so much!!

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  16. Thoughtful and nuanced, as always, Heather. Thank you. :)

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  17. Heather, I don't now if you are familiar with James Alison- he is an openly gay Catholic priest and a fine writer and speaker.
    This link to his article amplifies your thoughts in some ways and may be of interest.

    http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/unbinding.shtml
    Blessings

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  18. Heather, such a beautifully written and thoughtful piece. One of the most vulnerable and respectful renderings of the heart of the Gospel for our culture that I have read. I am bookmarking this, and know I will be referring to what you say, and how you say it. We have a couple of lesbians (not a couple, but two very different young women) in our congregation, and you express so well what I have been trying to communicate to some agitated and anxious parishioners. Thank you for continuing to inspire.

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  19. I do know of James Alison, thank you, Philomena. I read his Undergoing God and On Being Liked several years back and was struck, among other things, by a passage about how Christ is "just there"...

    After having struggled mightily with this issue for years, however, my dilemma is no longer the Church’s stance on gay sex. My dilemma is that people are not converted in a vacuum or on the strength of one isolated issue.

    I’ve never been able to climb aboard the God-doesn't-care-much-about-our-sexuality bandwagon. Our sexuality is huge. I think the erotic/sexual/procreative urge is a, if not the, massive driving force, physically, emotionally, spiritually, in our lives.

    I think part of the hypocrisy in singling out or overfocusing on gay sex, however, is that our culture—our secular culture, and sadly, increasingly, our Catholic culture—is based on consumerism, greed, power, prestige, lust, fear, and violence. So before or while we start persecuting gay people for their disordered sex lives, we should probably take a hard look—as human beings, as Catholics—at our stance on war, on poverty, on capital punishment, on gun control, on the prison system, on the health care system, on a national budget in which 51% goes to the military, on our own lonely, conflicted, yet ever-yearning hearts.

    Who is going to be converted—gay or straight—in other words, when we do not remotely act the way Christ taught us to? Who is going to be converted except by being shown and attracted to the crazy joy of we folks who have supposedly offered up, or are trying to, our own sexuality and lives?...

    Being gay isn’t wrong, love is never wrong, sex in and of itself is OBVIOUSLY not wrong. And to me, the Church is the one place where the sanctity of every human life, broken, weak, disordered as we all are, is most fully rejoiced over and most fully protected. In a letter, Dec 23, 1959, Flannery O’Connor noted, “"Dogma is the guardian of mystery. The doctrines are spiritually significant in ways that we cannot fathom. According to St. Thomas, prophetic vision is not a matter of seeing clearly, but of seeing what is distant, hidden. The Church's vision is prophetic vision; it is always widening the view."

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  20. "...their sex lives (about which, by the way, I know (as is only appropriate) nothing)."

    Truly! I don't share my sex life with others, and I don't want to know about theirs. Isn't that the ultimate "don't ask, don't tell" policy? It's just none of my business. Much less my business to correct.

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  21. When it comes to serious sin is there any difference between the sexual sins of heterosexuals, or homosexuals? I doubt it. Flannery O'Coonor described sin as "any time we exchange a greater good for a lesser one."

    Hilaire Belloc beautifully paraphrased a definition of evil by St Thomas Aquinas. "All evil exists in thre mistaking or the misusing of the means for the end."

    I know of nothing morally wrong where that Acquinas template of evil does not fit exactly.

    Stephen Sparrow

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    1. Yes, much "ado" is made of the evils of homosexual sex, and very little about the evils of heterosexual sex outside of marriage. We are all called to chastity-married and single. I can attest to to joy of loving another chastely as called to do.

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  22. Heather,

    My pharisaic impulse is to split hairs and argue with you on this one. Instead, I share an offering of peace by a poet who, in spite of my deepest prejudices, has become a favorite of mine:

    "Charlie Howard's Descent"
    by Mark Doty

    Between the bridge and the river
    he falls through
    a huge portion of night;
    it is not as if falling

    is something new. Over and over
    he slipped into the gulf
    between what he knew and how
    he was known. What others wanted

    opened like an abyss: the laughing
    stock-clerks at the grocery, women
    at the luncheonette amused by his gestures.
    What could he do, live

    with one hand tied
    behind his back? So he began to fall
    into the star-faced section
    of night between the trestle

    and the water because he could not meet
    a little town's demands,
    and his earrings shone and his wrists
    were as limp as they were.

    I imagine he took the insults in
    and made of them a place to live;
    we learn to use the names
    because they are there,

    familiar furniture: faggot
    was the bed he slept in, hard
    and white, but simple somehow,
    queer something sharp

    but finally useful, a tool,
    all the jokes a chair,
    stiff-backed to keep the spine straight,
    a table, a lamp. And because

    he's fallen for twenty-three years,
    despite whatever awkwardness
    his flailing arms and legs assume
    he is beautiful

    and like any good diver
    has only an edge of fear
    he transforms into grace.
    Or else he is not afraid,

    and in this way climbs back
    up the ladder of his fall,
    out of the river into the arms
    of the three teenage boys

    who hurled him from the edge -
    really boys now, afraid,
    their fathers' cars shivering behind them,
    headlights on - and tells them

    it's all right, that he knows
    they didn't believe him
    when he said he couldn't swim,
    and blesses his killers

    in the way that only the dead
    can afford to forgive.


    David

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  23. You’re a scintillating high wire act, my girl. Reading you is like watching Philippe Petit suspended in air, treading gracefully through space. You certainly don’t shy away from the heights, but rather seem propelled skyward, all the while maintaining loving contact with the humus (and the humor) of human experience. A breath-taking feat to behold: a balancing act between truth and love, love and truth. You take us high up, because you get down and dirty.

    The beautiful poem Dave shares seems to incarnate something of your own m.o. Forgiveness in the face of violence, mercy in the face of pharisaical judgment. I imagine your posts as hoeing a straight line behind Christ’s mysterious writing in the sand, which culminates in his forgiving the adulteress.

    Yet this dizzying forgiveness is yoked to the humbling words “sin no more.” Love that courageously calls a spade a spade. “Love [that…] rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13: 6).

    Here’s something I just came across that may relate to your post, written by a convert, and written lovingly in sand: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/6860?CFID=31498784&CFTOKEN=15313840

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  24. Joe, that may be the nicest tribute I've ever received--thank you so much! And thanks, too, for the link, which in a way makes a perfect companion piece, and also fires my caffeine-fueled brain in so many directions that instead of spending yet ANOTHER morning on a long-winded comment, I'll probably be moved to write a whole other post. For the moment, however, I'll just say my first thought is yes, and let's have both-and rather than either-or...

    I am deeply inspired, encouraged and moved by the thoughtful, Christ-like tenor of every single of these comments. That we can try to get to the meat of the Gospels in a spirit of mutual respect and love...this is just what we're called to and what I, for one, hunger for!...Thank you, everyone...

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  25. Joe,

    Bishop Conley's column is indeed the perfect complement to Heather's post. The two go together like hand in glove. Thank you for sharing it.

    Heather,

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Yes, we are our brother's keeper, but what that means in practical terms, especially when it comes to the very complex and delicate matter of our gay brother, is difficult to say. It's probably useful to remember that as sinners we need our gay brother's forgiveness as much as (if not more than) he needs ours. He's our keeper, too.

    David

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  26. hi Heather,

    I've been reading your blog off and on for awhile, but never commented. As a gay lady and, I hope and believe, a follower of Jesus, I enjoyed it--thank you for your respect, and for being willing to walk alongside, rather than chastise, my people.

    I read a lot of christian and Catholic bloggers and it always interests me that no actual gay people post on these kinds of conversations, though everyone else seems to have an opinion. One thing I think is interesting to note is that it is a privilege to walk the line on this one...for me it is either yes or no, because I have to live it, you see?

    Anyway, I guess I'm just offering to answer any questions people might have. Or maybe just to say "I was here."

    love,
    rachel

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  27. Heather, the tribute was wholehearted and much deserved. Thank you for your blog and for being such a consistently provocative and insightful writer.

    Dave, thanks again for the poem, as well as for your blog, and I'm glad you appreciated the link.

    Rachel, I think you're right on the money about the dearth of gay voices on certain Catholic sites, etc. I'd be interested about what you thought of the voice of Richard Evans whom I just stumbled upon, and who tells his story with a compelling combination of love and honesty. He's at least one person, perhaps, who sees his choice as a yes or no as you do, yet which is paradoxically and simultaneously also a yes and yes:

    http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/catholic-reverts/item/60-catholic-revert-richard-evans

    By the way, Heather, it was curious to see that your friend Lorraine Murray very recently posted her conversion (or rather reversion) story on the same site that Richard Evans did. Here's the link to it in case you'd like to check it out:

    http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/catholic-reverts/item/92-catholic-revert-lorraine-murray

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  28. Am I my sister Heather’s keeper? Well, yes. Is there something obnoxious about posing that question? I hope not. Why do I feel like Huck Finn here? I guess I am going to Hell then. During St. Francis’s day, lepers were the deal, during the Inquisition, Auto da Fe. Then people of color had no souls, and now what? Not just this faction or that but all of us have been taught how to love wrongly. If that were not so, we’d have peace on Earth. For me, at least, the question is not, “Is homosexuality a sin?” so much as is my body a worthy temple for the indwelling guest of God? This requires, for me, a good deal of housekeeping, not only of my sexual desires and conduct, for if I have lusted in my heart, I have already committed adultery, but of every other vice I may harbor: resentment, jealousy, bitterness, avarice, over-sensitivity, and the list goes on. Personally, I need sacramental grace in order to get anywhere close to this objective, but my hope in this life is to experience an interior freedom and peace out of which I can love my neighbor as I have been loved, which is unconditionally, and indeed create a modicum of peace on Earth.

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  29. Again, thanks, Joe. My basic thought on the Conley piece was yes, great, the guy’s a bishop or assistant bishop: that is exactly his job to disseminate the Church’s teachings. And that is also lovely that the Church is supporting gay folks, offering them fellowship, and helping them navigate the whole thorny area of sexuality (God knows it is thorny for all of us)--

    The point of my piece, though, wasn’t to question or even really discuss the Church’s teachings on gay sex; the question was how, if at all, as a Catholic layperson I am called to point out the sins of my brothers and sisters.

    I am all for calling a spade a spade. See, for instance, the interview I recently ran with Fr. George Zabelka, a U.S. Army chaplain who was present at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, later utterly repented of his participation in the wholesale slaughter, and came to believe that no follower of Christ could in all good conscience, ever participate in war of any kind. http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2011/08/lie-of-christian-war-on-66th.html

    I am also no supporter of the “everyone else is sinning, so my sins don’t matter” defense.

    But precisely because I feel so strongly that we should NOT water things down, I think we are going to have a very hard time convincing gay folks—many of whom are more “Christian” than Christians; many of whom, for instance, have nursed their dying partners in a way that would have done St. Martin de Porres proud, who serve the poor and the marginalized, who live on subsistence wages as artists—that they’re called to offer up their sexuality out of self-renunciating, Christ-centered, for-the-greater-good love when as Catholics, we are increasingly indistinguishable from the culture at large, which is based on greed, lust, consumerism, a war economy, gossip, vitriol, and violence of every form and at every level.

    Yes, Christ told the adulterous woman to sin no more--after he’d SAVED HER LIFE AND RISKED HIS BY SIDING WITH HER. So I guess I feel my job is to ask myself: What am I doing to save the life of—and to lay mine down for—the gay person who aches with loneliness, who has had to carry the cross of feeling and being different all his or her life, who hungers for meaning and connection, as we all do? What am I giving to the person who yearns to meet a saint, as we all do? How am I mirroring the poverty, chastity (which encompasses far more than sexuality), obedience, humility, joy, peace, sense of wonder, and love that—unless I have COMPLETELY misread and misunderstood the Gospels, the Desert Fathers, the lives of the saints, the Sacraments, and the meaning of the Crucifixion and Resurrection—are the hallmarks of the authentic follower of Christ?

    What am I offering the human being—gay or straight—who bleeds, aches, quests, reflects, suffers? I hope, in part, this blog...

    Which is also a roundabout way of saying--Rachel: I’m so glad you checked in.

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  30. Well said, Heather.

    Rachel, while I believe in the Church's teaching on gay sex, I also acknowledge that it's easy for me to do so. There are other teachings of the Church, teachings that I also believe, yet which, quite honestly, I do not live. Accepting the Church's teaching on gay sex causes me no cognitive dissonance, because I'm not gay. Accepting the Church's teaching on contraception, on the other hand, causes me extreme cognitive dissonance. It would be easier, I suppose, if I just flat out denied and rejected the Church's teaching on contraception. But I'm not going to do that, because I know that the Church is right and I'm weak. Therefore, I have no dispute with gay people who don't live according to the teaching of the Church. How can I, knowing my own weakness? My dispute is with people (whether gay or straight) who think that they know better than the Church. I'm not saying that's you, I'm just saying. Anyway, I'm glad to make your acquaintance here at Heather's blog, and I hope that you might visit my blog as well.

    God bless,
    David

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  31. Heather, you mention that if someone started doing drugs and other dangerous things, then you would intervene...I guess this raises the question, is disordered sex, of whatever variety, harmless, or not dangerous? Discernment and admonishment are far different than judgment and condemnation. Do openly disordered relationships call for admonishment, seems to be the question. When we see homosexual partners use artificial insemination and all its attendant evils, when they parent children, which I feel in my heart of hearts is not good for children...there is much to these choices that should not be left unaddressed.
    As someone once said - we must be faster to remonstrate a sinner than a mother to take the hand of her child from the fire - not out of condemnation but out of love. "Go, and sin no more" is a phrase that tells us that after we unconditionally accept someone as no different than we ourselves, and after we give them whatever they need for healing, we also need to call them away from the danger into which they have fallen and which has caused their illness. We can't assume they cannot be freed from disordered tendencies, because there is ample evidence that people have been, through prayer, through therapy. I think it is not clear that we should assume that those in disordered sexual relationships are happy. Counseling them on various aspects of their lives, and ignoring this deep woundedness might be like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. Maybe not. But, maybe so.
    I have had the privilege of knowing a very gifted healer, and I have seen this person chastise people in their sins, much to my chagrin and horror - only to see the them undergo deep conversion and a freeing from that sin because someone cared enough to challenge them in their destructive habit. They experience miraculous healing and it is that healing that proves the word of the healer, and allows them to let go.
    People want the truth in their hearts. They want to get behind their own proclivity the culture now supports to heal the woundedness that caused it. And there are terrible wounds. We should always pray for the right moment and be ready to witness to this hope with our friends who are in these relationships.

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  32. Okay, but I've shown who I am and what my friends are like, and how we proceed together. And what I like is to hear actual stories of transformation. So show me the how your way works! What did you say? What were the circumstances? I'd love to hear it! Why would you want to remain anonymous and keep this good news under wraps instead of showing your face to the world and your friends who have been transformed by having been told they are sinning! Who's your healer friend! Let us meet her!

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  33. To Anonymous who sent the name of the healer: if you want to email me privately, I'm happy to discuss why I choose not to post it and to address your other concerns. Thank you for your readership.

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  34. In the wake of Jamey Rodemeyer's suicide and Lady Gaga's very public patronage of his cause, one cannot help but feel a certain tightness in the stomach and a fluttering of the heart on hearing the Pope's affirmation of the Catholic Church's traditional teachings on sexuality and marriage, reaffirmed in Germany in recent days. To support the Pope is to incur the wrath of the world these days. This side of the story cannot be ignored. The Pope cannot remain silent, yet speaking out in the present climate he becomes a lightning rod for hatred. If we love the Pope, we must support him openly. Are we willing to do so? Even at the price of certain friendships?

    David

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  35. There are many practicing Catholics -- perhaps even the majority -- who disagree with the Pope and the Church on issues of sexuality. If we have gay friends who know that we are Catholic, do they instinctively assume that we agree with the Pope on these issues? I don't know, but it seems that statistics at least would support the contrary assumption. It isn't a matter of telling our gay friends that they are sinners. It's more a question of whether we as Catholics are willing to "come out" in support of the Pope in front of our gay and politically liberal friends, especially at times like these. After all, don't many gay people see the Pope as an "enabler" of the bullies who drive gay teens to suicide? How do we address this misconception and slander? Don't we have a certain obligation to do so?

    David

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  36. Hi David, I am supporting the Pope and if you want to argue about the best way to do that, as you have tried to for months, I'm afraid my blog is not the place to do it.

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  37. I’m thinking, dear David, that if we really lived like Christ, we wouldn’t have to say anything! Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi and St. Therese of Lisieux didn’t have to announce that they stood with the Pope, with Christ. Their entire being, their existence, said where they stood.

    Or as Binx Bolling said in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer: “There is only one thing I can do: listen to people, see how they stick themselves into the world, hand them along a ways in their dark journey and be handed along, and for good and selfish reasons.”

    So come! Let us all put on the heart of Christ together!...

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  38. Agreed. No more argument from me.

    David

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  39. My name is Richard Evans, and Joe Aeropagite was kind enough to quote my story here...First of all thank you Joe for sharing this...and yes be free to share it with others. As I mention in the EPILOGUE section of my article I am not without my struggles. But here is one thing I have learned early on, and hang on to with my whole life--The Holy Eucharist, recieved in a state of grace, is worth everything. No physical pleasures nor even earthly love is worth compromising that. I always find it intriguing when people claim to be "born gay." There is scant scientific evidence of this at best. What is provable is that, statistically, most of us who have SSA (same sex attraction) cannot remember when it first began--so it does SEEM to have "always" been with most of us.

    But what seems to be 2+2=4 is not always quite that obvious. I think a better explanation is in our own Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that the genesis of these feelings is largely unknown. Scientifially that statement is far more accurate than "I was born that way." Is it genes? Is it environment? And finally and most importantly, does it ultimately even matter? What truly matters is that we all have different areas of weakness, wounds, and temptations. But that all of these can and should be laid at the foot of the Cross. Easier said than done, to be sure.

    But that is true for those who are actively gay, actively straight within or not within a marriage, or actively celibate. All three ways of sexual expression or non-expression have to be surrendered to the Cross of Jesus in the end and our lives need to become His. I have not learned it perfectly--far from it. But I am journeying. And glad. You said it right, Joe.

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  40. Hi Richard, oh I think it matters very much whether the fact is that people are born gay or "choose" to be gay. I think it matters absolutely that the Church, the repository and promulgator of the truth, knows what the truth IS and teaches from it. It matters as to the tenor and intensity of the gay person's soul, conscience and struggle; it matters with respect to the compassion others might feel toward the gay person; it matters because to go against one's nature is a whole different crucifixion than a simple choice to go right or left when either one will do as well.

    Perhaps you missed, however, that I wasn't arguing or disagreeing with the Church's stance on sex, gay or otherwise. I was reflecting on whether we are called to point out people's sins to them. This would of course include informing my straight friends who are living together that they are sinning, informing my friends who are gossiping (often with me) that they are sinning, informing my friends who fail to reserve Sundays as a day of rest that they are sinning, etc. Maybe that is someone's job, but I feel quite sure it is not mine.

    As a single woman, I more or less joyfully try to live out the Church's teachings on sex, too! But that's another post. Thank you for your readership and for sharing your own WORTHY journey...

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  41. I believe that it's patently obvious that no one chooses to whom they are attracted. It is equally obvious that a man or woman who is Catholic and attracted to persons of the same sex has a unique cross to bear, given the Divine Truth that the Catholic Church is bound to teach. Not all crosses are created equal.

    David

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  42. I get behind in your blog at times.
    I just read this and it is thoughtful, provoking and respectful. Christ hung out with a lot of people: he didn't discriminate. It can be tough to be a Catholic and still love (even when I feel I am going against the Churches teachings.) But, then, as you wrote, Christ came for the sinners. As often said, some of my dearest friends are gay and I love them-no matter what.

    Excellent post, Heather.

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  43. I too am a latecomer to this post. But it was water in the desert for me who has a very dear son who is gay and has very little use for the Catholic Church. I feel sometimes as if I walk a tight rope as a devout Catholic who subscribes to all the Church holds but at the same time loves my son with such an achingly painful love, desiring always his best good, that I agonize over how best to proceed. Your post was so thought provoking and so in line with what I feel in my heart. I just can't go theological or magisterial on him. I can only love him and trust our merciful God to do the rest.
    Thanks Heather. And thanks to all those who commented. Your comments were also of great help, and the poem,David, was heart rending.

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  44. Thank you, so glad you found some consolation in the post and comments...That is just it: we agonize about how to proceed...going by our best lights, never quite sure whether we are doing the right thing or not..God bless you and your son. How graced he is to have you for a mother!...

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  45. Heather...this question originates in a phrase in Redeemed but is relevant I think to this topic;

    And as important as it is that we love each other and model our Christian faith in the exercise of that love....the recent Father Barron video, "What You Believe Makes A Difference" has some application to this entire discussion.

    Understand please, I'm not questioning nature vs nurture, pointing out another's sin's, or the sinful condition of all of us.

    Incidentally, I agree with you that God is intensly interested in sexual relationships particularly within marriage. He certainly compared his relationship to Israel often in those terms...and based on numerous references in various OT prophets He takes a pretty dim view of marital infidelity. With that in mind, its hard for me to imagine that your friend Ben is going find out after he dies that extramarital sex was really OK all along...I do appreciate his "Pascal's Wager" approach to it though!

    Finally, my question;

    From page 68, In what sense exactly do you feel "the Church seems not to have quite found its bearings and balance in this area"?

    It appears to me that the "Magisterial Church", in contrast to some unofficial statements in recent years, (and this is where the Barron video becomes relevant), is quite comfortable with its position as expressed in a number of documents...to mention only two; Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition....., and Pastores Dabo Vobis.

    God Bless,

    Dave S

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  46. Hi Dave, re my friend Ben, just as you said, the point there was not to imagine that after we die, we'll discover that extramarital sex was fine, it's that assuming it's not fine when we're alive can't possibly lead us wrong.

    I think you can agree with the Church's teachings on sexuality--straight and gay--while also observing that she/us haven't quite found our balance and bearings in this area re living the teachings out. Maybe we never will, being human. Actually, I'm not sure how anyone could look at the Church--and this is with complete devotion, fidelity and love--and FAIL to see the huge sexual wound at its heart; just as there's a sexual wound at the heart of all humanity. I'm not sure how anyone could look at the Church and FAIL to acknowledge that the Church, to our collective sorrow, has hardly been a model of sexual vitality and health. That doesn't mean the teachings are wrong, of course, nor that I love her one whit less. I'm going to post Monday about this very subject.

    The particular subject of homosexuality is one I have struggled and continue to struggle with. Not so much the Church's teachings on it, with which I WAS still struggling when I wrote Redeemed, but more the rigidity and bloodlessness and complete lack of compassion and love for the gay man or woman (based, I believe, on our own unworked-through sexual/emotional wounds) with which those teachings are so often promulgated and taught.

    So the operative point remains: "If I'm really concerned about women or gays or any other minority being treated with love and respect, then I get to treat those people with love and respect myself, by doing all the long, hard inner work that treating any human being with love and respect inevitably entails."

    I hope that comports with any and all magisteriums (or is it magisteria?)...

    Thanks for checking in and God bless to you as well--

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  47. Heather, thanks for the elaboration. As in so many other things....Church teaching good, our faithfulness to it and practice of it less so, which is a reflection of where we're all at. I spent 15 years+/- working as a prison ministry volunteer in Texas. It occured to me more than once that God may not have the same hierarachy for the seriousness of sin that we seem to.

    Maybe what I was guilty of was more serious in His eyes than what those guys did who were serving time.

    Dave

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  48. Thank you for this thoughtful and honest post. As a non-catholic gay man with a lapsed catholic partner I have a somewhat conflicted view on this issue. I have always been of the opinion that the church is the church, she has a right to teach what she teaches, and whoever does not agree with the teachings can and should leave - and keep their distance. I have little patience for all the pointless raving and ranting against the church, but I find it equally perplexing to see the masochistic fervor with which so many gay men long to be accepted into an institution which has made very clear its view that gay sexuality is objectively disordered and only not sinful if not acted upon. I have to confess that knowing one of my friends to be in agreement with this teaching would likely create an insurmountable obstacle for our friendship. The comparison of being gay to alcoholism is unacceptable to me both as a gay man and as an AA member. My sexuality, which I agree is a profound and defining trait that should not be minimized or explained away - is nothing like my addiction, which is a disease. Your gay friends seem to be a lot more generous than I could be in entertaining a friendship and I salute them for that - at the same time I have to say that abstaining from constantly pointing other people's perceived sins out to them, especially if they are not members of the same church or faith, is hardly something that should require much pondering over - there is a social consensus of what constitutes just plain obnoxious behavior under the rules of civility, and I think this would fall right under that category. The catholic church on the other hand assumed the role of gay people's keeper (and not just for the brothers and sisters in faith) when she became so heavily and vocally involved in a campaign to revoke a right to civil marriage which we gays here in California already had. And I think in doing so a boundary was overstepped that runs deeper than just the division of church and state but has to do with the fundamental decency of leaving alone and to themselves those that are outside your legitimate sphere of influence or jurisdiction. In other words, don't meddle, and in return I would have been happy to promise to never, ever try to walk down the aisle of a catholic church in a dress. I realize the point of my post may well be a sad one - that ultimately there simply is no common ground between devout Catholics and gay persons who cannot accept the idea of having an intrinsic disorder - and that maybe we must accept that as graciously as we can and just go our separate ways - or as you put it, politely decline invitations to each other's weddings.

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  49. Hi there Yon Demuth, thanks for checking in.

    The comparison to alcoholism was meant to convey that just as an alcoholic doesn’t choose to be wired for alcoholism, a gay person doesn’t choose to be gay.

    Your comment raises many vital issues that are beyond the scope of the post and would take hours, if not weeks!, to properly address. But I will weigh in vis-à-vis your consternation at the gay folks who you perceive as masochistically wanting to join a Church that doesn’t want them. As a single woman past child-bearing age, who is nonetheless called (like everyone else) to sex only inside straight marriage I could just as well call myself masochistic for joining a Church that doesn’t want me. Instead, I have found the Church, to be the ONLY place that wants me, fully. I can only speak for myself here, but I never saw the Church as a social club to be vetted/researched with an eye toward what I could get but rather a Mystical Body of which I became a member because I wanted to give everything I had.

    Paradoxically, in return I receive everything worth receiving, one crowning star being a conscience formed not on the basis of ideologies, ideals, political causes, rights, issues, principles or stands but on human beings. So while I graciously (and with a heavy heart) decline invitations to gay weddings, my love, respect, admiration and compassion for my gay friends remains intact and if anything deepened. They may cast me out of their lives and hearts, but I never have to cast them out of mine.

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  50. Heather, I discovered your writings in Magnificat, and I read your post and every comment with a profound respect for the idea that all of this is up to God, and that my role, at least to most of the world, is to try to be a much better example of a Catholic Christian than I often am.

    It was in the comment by another Anonymous on Dec 31 that I found the response I was also looking for: how to be as a the mother of a wonderful son who has identified as gay. Because I am his mother I believe I must speak what I believe is true to him when the subject comes up, and I also know that I love him so much, and that God loves him more.

    It is a hard challenge, and If I let myself I can really worry about how I will handle choices that may come up as he gets older. I try to trust that God is in charge of all of this, and that my role is simply to love him as I always have.

    I also liked the perspectives of the other readers, especially on contraception. We all have our weaknesses, and during my childbearing years I was not strong enough to simply trust in God. So I am trying not to worry about other people, to be more loving as a Christian, and to learn how to be the best mother I can to both my grown sons. So far that keeps me quite occupied!

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  51. Heather,
    thoughtful post. Yes, we are our gay brother's keeper. I'm been same sex attracted for as long as I can remember. That said I don't believe I was born this way. I would also say that my same sex attraction is not something I chose. Ok. However, it is my choice to live that out ( to express myself sexually). I am 45 and I struggled for most of my life to try to arrive at a compromise. In my early 20s I abandoned ship and dove head first into they gay lifestyle. I don't have a lot of positive things to say about that time. Really. I will say that I led a very self-centered, hedonistic and sinful life. Three relationships and none of them were monogomous (even though we talked about wanting that originally). It was my choice to do so and I did it with abandon. Now, had someone then told me that I was a sinner it would have enraged me. No likes to be told that they are living a self destructive life. I like millions of other men lived every day with the idea that I would find the perfect man who had all the qualities I lacked: more masculine, better built, more intelligent, more athletic etc etc etc. I spent hours scanning cruise sites for my own ego to see how desired I was by other men. It's sad and pathetic but my self worth was totally tied together with how attractive and desireable other men found me. Unfortunately, its a very superficial world. I don't miss it. As Catholics we are called to live chastity according to our state in life. As someone unmarried who will never be married that means no sex, no masturbation, no lusting period. Is it easy? Hello!?! but thanks be to GOD there is grace in prayer and the sacraments. If you fall, you get back up go to confession and make a firm amendment to move forward. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish the sinner. We aren't being charitable if we fail in that regard. That doesn't mean that we tell men with same sex attraction every chance we get that they are vile sinners. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of GOD and yes Jesus spent a lot of time with sinners but He never affirmed them in their sin and admonished them to forsake their sin. My same sex attraction is no worse than fornication, contraception, bestiality etc. they are all disordered expressions of sexuality. When I abandoned holy mother church i still had a deep insatiable hunger for GOD especially the Blessed Sacrament. I attended the Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church but in the end I was a Catholic in faith. It's easy to find a faith community that subscribes to one's own ideas about sexuality. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was to say: you know what? I wont pretend to understand the church's teaching regarding same sex attraction but it's what the Church teaches and I want to think with the church. I want to be faithful to Jesus and His Church. So I will give my trust to that Church. I know for most this is unfathomable but it's what we are called to do. Part of being our brother's keeper is praying for them.

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  52. Beautiful, Anonymous, thank you so much! What's hard is that we seem to hear from very few same-sex attracted people who are living this thing out, so I'm always excited when I do, and they are not either militantly right-wing and reformed, or ashamed and weirdly doormattish, or angry...I would feel even less qualified to weigh in if I had not been myself trying to live out the Church's teachings on sex (and everything else) these past 16 years. I, too, have found that the Eucharist and Confession inexorably guide us, no matter how many times we fail...Guide us and form us and in the midst of ongoing suffering, bring us peace, joy, and a house built on solid rock, no matter how weak and broken we continue to be...

    That is also fascinating that you don't feel you were born with the same-sex attraction, but neither did you choose it...like reality, like Christ, like the Church, like the Church's teachings on sex, the edges don't perfectly match up. I'm not saying they're not true, I'm not saying they're not right, just that the edges of things, especially hard things, don't perfectly match up, or not the way we wish they would...There's always a gap: in friendships, in our happiness, in our vocations...

    I'm thinking of a gay couple I know, married, committed, faithful, one is a brilliant, self-sacrificing third-grade teacher (I've been to his classroom); the other volunteers many hours a week, and has for years, at a soup kitchen, and works at a non-profit bringing health care to the poor. They have a garden, they cook, they offer hospitality to a wide range of people, genders, stations-in-life, ages...and so you have to ask, "Is this not an increase of love in the world?" And at the same time...I understand...it's not the GREATEST increase; it can't be the greatest possible increase...

    I love this: "I wont pretend to understand the church's teaching regarding same sex attraction but it's what the Church teaches and I want to think with the church. I want to be faithful to Jesus and His Church." Not because we're mindless automatons who can't or won't think for ourselves, but because we love Christ and we have experienced the transformation that comes from following him and from participating in his Church and carrying our little cross, whatever cross is given to us...

    I have a gay friend who after a whole life "out there" has come back to the Church and has very much the same approach as you. He's agreed to an (anonymous) interview to tell his own story/stance, and that I'll run on the blog, so I hope the discussion will be ongoing.

    Bless you for your balance, sanity, love of Christ, and true north heart...

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  53. Heather, I've read your blog off and on for a while now. I've often wondered why there were no postings on this very subject. Having spent some time in my youth living in the LA gay scene, I just thought upon reading your blog that you might be open to writing about this.

    I was angry before my conversion/reversion. I was really angry and not just at the Church but at my family and the world. I was enraged. I think a lot of people who are same sex attracted have this deep sense of being so different that we tend to have chips on our shoulders. I was angry that I couldn't be "married" etc. I was ready to move to a another country before I was thrown from my horse on the road to Damascus. I learned at a Courage Conference this past summer that alot of our baggage as same sex attracted men/women has to do with our perception of ourselves and our perception of how and why we were treated mistreated etc as children. Regardless of whether or not it was true it was/is our perception of reality. I never made that distinction before. I thought for many years that I was born this way. Why wouldn't you? If you can not remember being any other way? I think there is alot of hope and pressure that ultimately this is genetic. I think that there may be a propensity for such a thing but I think it's misguided to rule out environmental factors and the way one is raised. I found for me there was this constant claiming of victimhood. Poor me! Why me?! etc

    Another thing is that I don't define myself and who I am by my propensity toward sin. I am a man made in the image and likeness of GOD and redeemed by Christ who happens to carry the cross ( a rather heavy one at times) of same sex attraction. I asked for a long time what purpose my same sex attraction played in the universe and in God's plan. It was so important for me to have an answer to that for some reason. I kept hoping that there must be some evolutionary or biological reason for God to have allowed me to be this way. My disordered sexuality as well as everyone else's is the result of original sin and its snowball effect in the human family. So I guess one could argue a genetic link insofar as that. I remember how offended I was by the language used by the holy see: intrinsic moral disorder I like most people didn't understand what was mean't by that. In my mind it just meant that the Church viewed me as somehow inferior and most gay men have inferior complexes anyway so that just threw me on the defensive.

    It wasn't until I attended a Courage retreat a few years ago that I met other men who were on the same pilgrimage as myself trying to make sense of this and striving to live according to the teachings of holy mother church.
    A very large elephant in the living room of the Church worldwide is the shameless widespread use of artificial contraception by a very large percentage of practicing Catholics. One is on shaky moral ground when one tries to point fingers at same sex attracted men and women and at the same time uses artificial contraception. That is the fault of the bishops and priests. I've never heard a sermon on the subject. Disordered sexuality is disordered sexuality. One thing that is clear to me is that you will NEVER find peace in this life in disobedience to the natural law of GOD. I'm convinced of this. I also hold that you cannot expect your prayers to be heard if you are not being faithful to the laws of GOD and His Church.
    I credit my own conversion to Our Lady and the holy rosary. I would never have imagined roaming the Melrose Bathhouse 15 years ago, hanging out at the Faultline bar on Sundays looking for "Mr Right" that in 2012 I would be looking at years of remaining chaste. That is nothing short of a miracle of grace. CONTINUED BELOW

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  54. You commented on your domestic couple friends who are so gracious. I think something that escapes people is the concept that 2 men can live together and love each other and be chaste. It's not impossible. But they both have to be on the same sheet of music. I think it wrong to assume that just because 2 men are keeping house that they are sexually involved. It might be rare but it's no less possible. I can't think a truer form of Christian friendship than that. The key is chastity. It's difficult for men who have lived for years in the gay scene. One has to be very courageous. It's not for the faint of heart. The opposite of homosexuality isn't heterosexuality its wholeness or holiness. We are all called to live holy lives.

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  55. I think the Holy Father's Lenten message for 2012 is very apropo here to this theme:

    “Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us."

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20111103_lent-2012_en.html

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I WELCOME your comments!!!